Ready for this jelly?

No longer for kids: jelly now costs $7 a blob, and you’ll be happy to pay. Its re­turn can mean only one thing: the end is nigh.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

Lis­ten, toots. I’ve been busy. How was I sup­posed to know that jelly is back? Oh, it’s been back for ages, ap­par­ently. Cor­po­rate par­ties have jelly bars, now; con­fer­ences of­fer jelly tast­ing-wheels at din­ner. You can have a jelly trol­ley at your wed­ding re­cep­tion; you can courier cubes of glammy jelly across town.

How jolly is that? Even writ­ing the word “jelly” makes me quiver with a happy nos­tal­gia: I mean, if you could stop child­ish joy in time, or catch a gig­gle, you’d prob­a­bly set it in jelly.

De­signer jelly is be­spoke, from what I can tell. It’s not a su­per­mar­ket thing. These are wob­bly works of art. They come in com­pli­cated flavours (tea, ly­chee, el­der­flower). They might taste of booze. They’re cut into gem shapes, driz­zled with syrup, sprin­kled with gold dust and flow­ers. You’d have to be Ebenezer Scrooge to ob­ject to such harm­less, pretty fan­cies; I mean, who gets cross at a jelly?

Its re­turn, though, can mean only one thing. The end is nigh.

I mean, in food terms, the jour­ney re­ally does fin­ish here. There’s noth­ing less com­plex than jelly; it’s the sin­gle-celled or­gan­ism of the restau­rant king­dom. What is it – gela­tine, wa­ter, sugar, and a rose-petal? How can we get ex­cited about this, when in the past we’ve had ev­ery re­source at our dis­posal?

I can re­mem­ber when pas­try chefs would use blow­torches to caramelise Baked Alaska which, for any­one un­der 20, was a cake topped with ice­cream slathered in meringue. We used to have to TAME desserts with FIRE. No won­der we all went crazy for open-view restau­rant kitchens! Din­ner-time was a spec­ta­cle, a bat­tle be­tween good­ness and evil. Chefs were ba­si­cally Jedi; dessert, my friends, was a metaphor you could eat.

The jelly craze sig­nals how far we’ve fallen, as a species. It’s like we’re de­lighted that there’s any­thing left to en­joy be­cause the planet is a smok­ing ash-heap and we’ve gnawed through ev­ery al­ter­na­tive food group. Gela­tine is all that re­mains.

Also, it’s a prim choice, isn’t it? I hate to say it, but there’s some­thing squeaky-clean about its charisma. If it were a style, it would sing to a syn­the­siser, prob­a­bly on a Sun­day, in an au­di­to­rium full of peo­ple wear­ing flat-fronted pants.

Jelli­ness is close to god­li­ness, be­cause these days to eat sim­ply is to be spir­i­tu­ally clean. I can’t tell you how many things you must now refuse to sig­nal your virtue. Gluten, meat, dairy, caf­feine, al­co­hol, car­bo­hy­drates, sugar. Per­son­ally, I’ve never met any­one who has suc­cess­fully given up all seven of these ed­i­ble sins and I’m not sure I’d want to be trapped in a lift with them if I did. But we’ve all given up some­thing, lately, haven’t we? It’s just so lazy, so im­moral, not to ab­stain.

Still, a spoon­ful of sugar in a dab of jelly can’t be bad? I mean, you can lit­er­ally see through jelly: how can some­thing so translucent fail to be clean? No, it’s got to be good for you, or at least good for your con­science. I’ll have an­other blob, please, and don’t hold back on the gold leaf.

I won­der what the French think of the jelly craze. Af­ter all, Paris is the ar­biter of fash­ion­able din­ing: the best ta­ble, metaphor­i­cally, in the global restau­rant.

I find it hard to be­lieve they’d get jazzed about jelly. Af­ter all, this is a coun­try where the na­tional prin­ci­ples of equal­ity, so­ci­ety and free­dom tran­sub­stan­ti­ate daily into bread, but­ter and cream. You don’t mess around with a French per­son’s patis­serie; you might as well burn their con­sti­tu­tion.

I too­tled around read­ing about France to get a han­dle on the jelly sit­u­a­tion and I have to say, the con­sen­sus there seems to be “bof”. Paris has no opin­ion. There are bet­ter things to worry about – for one thing, Pres­i­dent Macron. He’s so un­pop­u­lar right now! If he were dessert, he’d be blanc­mange.

His wife Brigitte, mean­while, is well-liked. I find this surprising, and not just be­cause of the age gap or the un­palat­able fact she left her first hus­band for a

It’s like we’re de­lighted that there’s any­thing left to en­joy be­cause we’ve gnawed through ev­ery al­ter­na­tive food group.

teenager. I imag­ined Paris wouldn’t forgive her boxy bolero jack­ets with the dou­ble-breasted but­tons, her epaulettes, or her per­ox­ide-blonde bob. She looks like Coco Chanel, if Coco was a ba­ton-twirling march­ing in­struc­tor from Ohio. She is not chic.

But no! Paris doesn’t care! It likes un­apolo­getic women, who care not a fig for their crit­ics. Parisians like a crois­sant to be a crois­sant. They know that the meek don’t in­herit the Earth: the peo­ple with ap­petites do.

That’s what we need: per­mis­sion to eat. To fully be. Where did the joy go? It left the ta­ble without ask­ing. We need to bring it back, be­cause I don’t think I’m ready for just jelly.

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